Mealtime can be hard for us grown-ups!
Let's face it, dinnertime can be a stressful, chaotic time of day. The last thing us grown-ups feel like doing after a long day is whipping up a meal. To top it off, our kids are HUNGRY, maybe even "HANGRY" after their own full days.
While using quick and simple recipes certainly makes the meal-prep easier, even the simplest recipes don't solve the challenge of keeping our squirmy kiddos occupied and happy while we cook.
Why not invite kids to help out?
When we invite our kids into the kitchen, we have an opportunity to create a meaningful experience for the whole family. In fact, when we include our kids in the meal-prep, there are real tangible benefits for our kids that help make mealtime more valuable and fun. In turn, meal-time becomes less stressful and less overwhelming for us grown-ups.
So what are the benefits of cooking with our kids? Check out these three reasons to cook with your kids.
Note: We understand that the mood or circumstance may not always be right for a family cooking session. So, we also offer fun, food-related crafts and suggest educational programs for kids to watch while grown-ups cook.
Three Reasons to Cook with Your Kids:
1. Kids learn healthy eating habits for life!
When kids get involved in meal-prep, they get to see what actually goes into their meals and understand the value of whole foods. And once kids witness how the ingredients going into their meal aren’t so scary or gross, they may be more likely eat the meal. In fact, research has shown that involving kids in meal prep can increase kids' vegetable intake. Cooking has certainly encouraged our kids to try new foods.
Grocery shopping is the first and easiest lesson kids can receive around healthful eating. How to choose healthy and fresh ingredients at the store is a skill that parents can teach kids early on. Grown-ups get the chance to teach kids what the ingredients are, where they come from, and why they are good for us.
2. Cooking fosters exploration & builds self-esteem!
Kids can explore their world while cooking. Cooking supports scientific exploration, from observing how foods change with temperature to the ways foods nourish our bodies. Helping with meal prep also gives kids a chance to uses their senses (smell, taste, sight, touch) in meaningful ways. When my kids are hesitant to taste a particular ingredient, I often encourage them to smell or even touch it. This kind of "food exploration" can help ease kids into actually tasting and enjoying unique foods and flavors.
Cooking also helps build kids' self-esteem. When kids are a part of the cooking process, they see the beginning, middle and end of a task. They learn that they can make things happen, with a sense of self-satisfaction. When parents ask kids for their input on a meal's ingredients or taste, kids can feel like their opinion or ideas make a difference. That sense of belonging can foster confidence, for sure.
3. Kids learn important life skills!
Cooking itself is an important life skill to teach our kids. The more they cook as kids, the more likely they are to cook healthy meals as adults!
Younger kids can practice and build their fine motor skills in the kitchen by completing simple tasks like chopping, pouring, and mixing ingredients. Kids of all ages can practice following directions, collaborating with others, and using basic math (e.g., counting, measuring, making patterns).
And maybe, just maybe, being a lil’ sous chef helps kids appreciate all the hard work we put in to feed the family!